I looked up at the dazzling sun above me; the sky was clear and limpid blue. Piercing voices filled the air, the bird were singing together, making a somewhat pleasant racket, so numerous that it felt strange to see only the occasional sparrow jumping from branch to branch instead of a whole flock of them.
"Gosh, my feet hurt."
I turned around to face James. "You should have taken better shoes, those are not for hiking."
"Don't you have band aid or stuff?"
"No, they are with Bertrand."
"Hey! Uncle Barty." I yelled to the tall man in front of me with his enormous backpack. He turned around at my call, presenting an annoyed face.
"Would you stop calling me Barty."
"James is whining. Get the first aid kit out" I said, trying to tease him.
"What's the matter Jimmy?"
"I've got blisters the size of an egg."
Indeed, they must have been quite painful for him not to riposte to my attack. He usually had one hell of a big mouth. "Can you wait a little bit more please? We are not far from the lake."
"Can you see it?" Asked a tiny voice behind me. Samuel was holding a map in front of him, following some lines with him fingers.
"Not yet." my uncle answered
"After this bridge, there will only be less than a mile left." Continued the short boy.
The cracking of the old wood under my feet as we crossed made me uneasy, the breeze felt chilling under the shade of the trees.
"And then, we will finally be able to eat and swim."
Behind everybody, Chester's tall figure dominated, he had placed his hand behind his venetian blond head and walked.
My best friend was glaring at me.
"I can't take this anymore and I can't believe I got convinced by you, still 3 whole days of hiking. I hate mountains, I hate hiking, I hate camping."
"But you love me."
"Not for much longer." he smiled wryly, and placing a hand on the little boy in front of him, he added:
"Because you left me behind, alone with Samuel, he took your place in my heart".
The short stature of Samuel seemed even more petite compared to the towering Chester. He looked impassive as always and just turned blank eyes to him before going back to the map.
We started hearing voices, many and loud
I almost fell when I saw my uncle suddenly running down hill. "I think we reached the lake" sang Chester, and sure enough, the rocky shore of the glittering tarn appeared to me.
And I understood where the other voices came from. Around a little cabin at the limit of the pine forest, 6 to 5, of what seemed to me scouts, were packing up their tents. Barty was talking with their leaders, laughing. I did not feel like discussing. A little hi to everybody and I was already in my swimsuit, jumping into the icy, clear water, followed by the other. James sighed in relief, and Samuel looked at his watch and with his old man tone, started lecturing us. "We only have 2 hours to play around, then we have to continue to the next camp." My uncle joined us. "Who was that" "Guys camping. Bunch of nut." "Hu? Why?" "You see this hut? I went inside, it's pretty sweet. But those guys prefer to sleep in tents than there. Something about the true spirit of camping or some other crap." "I'm not sure that they would have the right to use it" "As if that would stop me" "That's a bad example that you're showing to your sister's offspring" grinned Chester "As if. There is only 5 year of difference." Then he shoved my head in the water and when he took it out he looked disgusted "What?" He took a piece of moldy red fabric from my hair and threw it away. I screamed in disgust while maniacally rubbing them. "What the heck was that!" "Maybe some corpse's clothes" joked Chester Samuel started yelling hysterically. He was trying to get his left leg out of the water. "Something caught me!" Before anybody could help him, he fell down, his leg apparently free. Samuel brought back up a black thingy. Long, slimy black weed. James brow's furrowed "That has no business in a lake" "There must be weed growing somewhere. You know, for fishes" "Still" James muttered. He stand up and walked away "I'm not going to stay in." "I wish I could stay" groaned Chester "Instead of walking. We're coming back right?" "Yes, we will pass by here on our way back" I answered "If only it would come fast"
And it did
Only too fast
The second day, heavy rain poured down on us and by the time we could protect ourselves, we were drenched and freezing. Chester was hit particularly hard and caught a cold, then the next day, we saw how truly terrible his situation was. He had asthma. He had not had an attack for 5 years, he thought he was out of it; but now, in addition to all the symptom of a sever cold, I thought each breath would be his last
We decided to go down in emergency, carrying Chester on our back by turn.
We called for rescue, the connection was bad.
When we finally got them, they told us to go down, there was too much tree on our position for a helicopter to come.
Carrying him made us so slow, we were still walking when it became dark.
The branch cracked under our steps and the wind chilled me to the bone
We decided to push to the clearing at the lake and sleep in the cabin
The animals were loud in the forest, so, so very loud
Everybody slept, but Bertrand, who was the oldest had to look after Chester.
I did too.
We looked at them as they were sleeping.
In the middle of the night, Chester's breathing became worse for about a hour.
We felt sleepy, but we did not give in.
Chester calmed down
At 4 a.m., we were snoring
I opened my eyes
I saw it
It was dark, only moon shine gave off some light.
It was above me
His face, human.
Not human, the features were too sharp. It was too surreal. I felt like I saw it without seeing it. Like those face that you try to remember but somehow can't. The outline are here, but blurry.
The skin was of a waxen yellow, his face, shin, nose, everything was sharp about him. He had black pupils, as black as the long flowing strand of hair that formed a curtain around me. Humanoid, slender, his legs and arms, longs positioned like a spider's, each at corner of my sleeping bag, dressed in a red costume. A tux, or whatever it was. All dark, crimson. It smelt and looked like an old piece of ragged velvet that had been left to rot, moldy.
Moldy. His long, slimy black hair.
I shuddered. This cold, sharp feeling creeping up your spine, followed by a brusque ways of heat like the blood suddenly rushed back your body before a cold sweat run down your back. All of it. My body convulsed, my head jerked.
And I stopped. Because he grinned. It was as wide as if he opened his mouth fully, yet so large that his eyes became 2 crescent almost disappearing behind his cheeks. Worse than a smile from ear to ear, worse than a cheshire grin. All it's teeth were showing, of a lighter yellow than its skin, so sharp, it was not shark's teeth. Each were like a giant wasp's sting, made out of ivory. Each neatly adjusted to each other, with a part of pink gum showing. There was clearly not muscle work or bone behind that. He could have been made of living wax.
He retired his face a little bit and I saw his hands, near my head, spidery also, long and thin like those of a bat and instead of nails, were sharp metallic claws, as if he put his fingers into some kind of demonic thimble.
Tears now running down my face, something else struck him. His face had changed, somehow, even though I pretty much did not stop looking at me, and now that I really paid attention to it, it was still changing. Morphing slowly, into something similar yet different. No wonder his features looked blurry to me despite their sharpness, my brain was trying to make sense of the change.
I heard a sob and the creature withdrew from me, bringing his hair curtain with him. Too tall to stand, he was crouching at the end of my sleping bag, with his hand on the floor like the most nightmarish chimpanzee to ever walk on earth. He looked at my right, where the noise came from, his smile somehow growing nastier while his eyes might have taken a cat's shape. I did the same. My uncle was weeping, facing me. He trembled and looked like he was trying to move but could not. The thing turned his attention back to me.
So full of malice
"Your energy… It's a shame that you were not sleeping…"
Even though its mouth did not move, even though his grin stayed the same, the voice came from him.
This muffled, deep voice. Coming from from the deepest of his ribcage, but with a touch of a high pitch, as if despite not coming from his mouth, the voice was somehow still influenced by his smile.
I wanted to scream but my throat was painfully tied.
"You" He hissed, his grin still unmoving
I started shaking my head, in an attempt to plead for my life, when at my left, something caught my attention.
And where Chester had been sleeping, instead, i saw something else. The same reddish blond hair, the same body.
But it was not my friend, it was a corpse. A rotting corpse. Green and gray, in a state of advanced decay, with fungus growing on it, flesh falling at some points, revealing bones while white, cream and red maggot twitched in it.
I gagged, and turned my face away. Only to see James and Samuel. As corpses, they were fresh compared to Chester. But their body was bloated and a trickle of blood came from their mouth. I was thankful that it was dark enough for me not to see them in all their abject glory despite their relative closeness.
The monster chuckled softly
I turned my head back at it, its face had again changed in some way while still being the same.
The door spontaneously clacked opened and he dashed trough it, pausing only for a moment to look at my uncle and me, his silhouette cut into the moonlight, his teeth and iris shining; then he disappeared into the night as the door shut behind it.
I looked blankly at the point where I last saw it, if just as a way to ignore the cadavers surrounding. And even though I was shocked, I felt my limb relaxing. My eyes grew heavy and my mind went numb.
I drifted into oblivion.
When I woke up, I was shivering,I put my head between my knee and started crying. Too afraid to face the dreadful sight that I knew I would behold.
"Hey… What the fuck are you doing?" groaned a tired voice
I screamed and scrambled quickly away from it.
There, still in the bags, stood James and Samuel, tired, pale, sickly and emaciated.
I heard a wheezing at my side. I almost choked at the sight
An ashen complexion, almost blue
"It's impossible. How can you be…."
"So it was not a dream."
Uncle was looking at me,looking like he took 10 year in 1 night.
"When I first saw them this morning, I thought I had turned nut. But if you react this way..."
"What are you talking about?" asked Samuel.
"I…" He flinched.
"Are you having a headache too?" Inquired James.
"Fell like my brain is gonna explode. You don't look good either."
"You look like you're dead."
"Talk for yourself. By the way, how is Chester?"
"Dead." I answered without thinking. They froze.
"What?" They rushed by Chester's side
"I can hear him breath." sighed Samuel in relief
"Are you okay?" James asked me
"Bertrand and I have something to tell you." I said
And that's how I started the story of last night. At the end of it, they looked at me petrified.
"What the fuck…" they whispered
"You can ask to Bertrand if you doubt me."
My uncle nodded
"No way! That's a joke." laughed weakly James.
"How do you explain your sudden condition. You look dead already."
"And when did it attack?"
"I don't know, we were awake all along."
And then I realized. If we were watching all along, but did not see him, but he still did it; then:
"I did it while we were watching." I breathed.
I stood up and took my bag.
"I am not staying there!"
"Are you gonna abandon us with Chester?" commented Samuel. I stopped.
"We can call the rescue again for them to come get us. This place is easy to access by helicopter and if your story is true, then this thing is in the wood."
"Thins thing know how to get in and find us." I screamed.
"Staying here is suicide."
"Not if we only stay here long enough to get help. It is staying inside a haunted cabin for a few more hours versus risking another whole 24 hours into the wood with this thing out there." He pulled his phone out and called. I think that in the mist, he threw some story about an attempting murder. When he finally hang down, he seemed better.
"They are coming in urgency," he said, "I think I scared them enough. Not that the story needed any embellishment though."
It gave me hope.
When I heard the chopper, I thought we were saved.
When they pulled the cable down I wanted to celebrate.
And when they almost crashed into a tree because of the strong wind and got back on the base, I wanted to die.
This time, it was no rainstorm but a thunderstorm. There was no way to get out. We were forced to stay inside the damned building.
Then the twilight came and we prepared for another terrible night.
And the wind was loud, so very loud.
And the wood of the cabins cracked so much, and I felt chilled to my bones.
When I woke up, it was above me again.
Was it a red suit this time?
"What a shame that you're conscious," It said, "You were the last one."
His mouth opened slightly and his tongue slithered between his teeth to lick my face.
"You were asleep when we came, you're now awake. You're able to see us, but not eatable."
"What…?" I managed to ask feebly
His face showed an expression of sadistic delight, leaving me, he crept toward my uncle who was still sleeping soundly.
Like me, he could not keep up with the all-nighter that we had planned, and the other neither could due to their exhaustion. His innocent face got covered by the crimson monster.
The creature positioned each appendage at a corned of the sleeping bag. His hair covered him and his victim. My vision became blurry. And it was on me again.
"Will we take you, won't we take you? Chose someone in your stead. But beware, what I consume is mine."
"I can't do that!"
Like a shadow, he withdrew and revealed my companions.
I threw up.
My uncle was a swollen corpse, James and Samuel were rotting with maggots, and all that was left of Chester was a skull.
"How can Chester be… " But asking gave me the answer; he was already dying after all. No wonder he decomposed faster than the other. By tomorrow…
It started counting
"10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2..."
"Chester!" I cried.
His tongue caught the skull and drew it near. Then it became Chester again. My best friend dying of asthma, the tongue wrapped around his neck, saliva dripping.
"I'm sorry Chester! I'm sorry!"
Chester opened his eyes. Blood was now coming out of his mouth, his eyes rolled backward and when they came back, they were of a pearly white.
A ferocious laugh resonated on the wall of the cabin. For the first time took back the use of my limbs and ran out into the wood, screaming.
The thunder was so loud, the animal were howling, the Branch cracked resonating into my body. The wind was cold and chilling to the bone, the rain soaked me and beat up my face
I could not see but when the lighting struck.
I saw pieces of red.
I tripped and scratched my hand when I heard a voice:
"Wait for me."
Samuel emerged from behind me. Not the Samuel corpse, the regular little Samuel, only sicklier than yesterday.
I ran to him and hugged.
"Samuel, I'm so sorry. I thought that Chester would die anyway. I.. I.."
"It's nothing." said another voice
My blood ran cold. Coming the same way was another Samuel. I recoiled and looked at the one who was in my arm. He looked up at me and smiled from ear to ear. His teeth were the monster's. It bit me. On the shoulder. I punched it square in the face.
"It hurts." Parodying a whimper, a third Samuel emerged from the wood, his ugly transformation already on.
I turned around as started running again. I heard their animal scream as they chased on. I heard their footstep behind me, they were growing more numerous every second. My lungs, my heart, my muscle, I was burning. I looked desperately around, I knew that I could not keep on like that forever.
I found my savior.
When I bashed the first skull with the heavy log, as saw splatters of brain all around. It had pieces of branches on it, when the very long one hit they either broke and spread shard on the face or punctured the flesh. More I used it, more it looked like a morning star.
At first, I just eliminated the one encircling me, but at length I decided to follow the path traced by their appearance, destroying the head of each that I encountered until I found a circle, that I did not remember passing, where 10 of them were standing, waiting for me.
It was long, and I got bitten badly. But I killed all of them.
Sounds became even louder and the air was colder.
He appeared at my left, for the first time, fully standing. He was by far taller than any human,this time, wearing a a full on red body suit with pieces of fabric floating in the air.
I swung my weapon to hit him.
It passed trough its body, as if nothing happened.
It lowered himself on all 4 like a spider and started choking, retching. A disgusting pile of flesh rolled out of his mouth-which he had stretched beyond imagination- like the most disgusting cat fur ball imaginable. The vomit was covered in sputum like substance and left a tract like that of a snail behind it. It rolled until colliding with one of the mutilated "Samuel".
It was writhing.
Everything went silent. There was no sound, no cracking, The wind stopped blowing, I was not cold anymore. Only the lighting provided light, but the thunder had disappeared. The world was dead.
Still covered in mucus, the new being straightened as much as it could for it had no leg and looked more like a snail in the lower part
It was the size of a child, slightly deformed, naked, and grey. A corpse's grey.
And its face. Ho God, its face. It was a patchwork of meat put together, with the sewing work even more visible there than on the rest of the body. There was no nose. 2 vertical opening were his eyes. The next lightning made them gleam and showed that they were red (as in the white was red) with black slit pupils like that of the devil himself.
It turned to the mutilated corpse of the Samuel and started ripping open the abdomen. I had seen so many thing that I could not be shocked by that anymore, however, I did react to something on the monster.
At the top of it's skull, a healthier looking patch of skin harbored some hair. Venetian blond hair.
"It can't be…"
Its head made a 180 degree turn to face me and he started opening what looked like a scar in its goddamned face, one starting from under its eyes and baring its cheek. There were shark's teeth, it was a mouth, a mouth without lips. I think it smiled. Then it closed again and came back to the disembowelment, chewing on the guts before throwing them around. After all the organs got out of its way, it crawled inside the carcass and closed the skin behind it.
The corpse started moving. Brain part still hanging from the destroyed skull.
"Thank you for the gift."
The monster was at my left, but the sound came from the right.
This thing was the one speaking inside the monster all along
I did not wait for them to catch me and sprinted blindly.
No noise, nothing
I arrived to the shack
They stood in front of me
The sun was rising
From the corpse's inside, the voice only said
"Time to go"
And I fell unconscious.
I don't remember the trip down the mountain
I don't remember the transport to the hospital
I don't remember the police interrogation
The last time I saw Bertrand, he was comatose
The last time I saw Samuel, he had a head injury and scars all over the body, concentrated on the abdomen
The last time I saw James, he was in a coffin, his blisters and injuries got infected an he died of it.
I never saw Chester again.
I was the only one in a decent shape
They interrogated me again, apparently, my first report was delirious
I did not know what to say
They put me in an asylum, suspecting me for the murder of Chester
I was happy
In the cell, the noise was normal, the floor did not crack, the wind was not cold. It was not silent, it was not dead.
During this time, Samuel died of "natural cause", his organ had failed quietly. Exhausted.
After 1 month, they finally concluded that we were the victim of a maniac.
I stayed 3 years.
I think Bertrand finally woke up but has partial amnesia now.
I still do not have the courage to see him.
I walk in the street. In a heavy coat, I am afraid of even my shadow.
I front of me is a new hotel.
I need a room.
The circulation is loud, so very loud.
The asphalt cracks under my foot, I am uneasy
The wind is cold and chilling to the bone
I stop at the entry and decide not to enter
As I distance myself, it all subside
Following those events, the narrator committed suicide, the note that was left contained sentences and many bullet point such as:
"They were always watching, they never stopped."
"You can't see them until it is too late."
"Don't fall asleep."
"The noise is mortal but the silence is worst."
One year afterward, Bertrand and his wife disappeared after 1 night in a new hotel that opened in their neighborhood.
For 10 years, the desecrated bones of the 5 hikers were found all over the country, in the stead of person who disappeared after 1 night in random hotel rooms.The maniac who attacked them is suspected of those crime. The bones were broken and wore mark of teeth and knife like incisions. Eventually, all of them were recovered but for the skulls. The kidnapping are still occurring today.
The police still does not know how he obtained all the bone though; James had been cremated.